Wednesday, October 15, 2008

District of Columbia Launches Open Innovation Challenge

Today the District of Columbia Chief Technology Office of the Officer (OCTO) announced “Apps for Democracy,” an initiative to develop new software applications to make the DC government’s data more accessible and useful for the general public and the government. Register for the contest at

The District collects and maintains vast stores of data on every aspect of government operations, from government contracts to crime statistics to economic development and much more. The District has already organized and published this data in a real-time data catalog at The new initiative will solicit the best and most cost-effective ways to package and present this data for easy viewing, analysis, and repurposing by the public.

Technology developers are invited to compete in creating applications for popular consumer technologies like iPhones, Facebook, Map Mashups and others. Developers must use open source programming.

The contest is open to the general public and will run for a month from October 14 through November 14, 2008. The District will host a kick-off on October 16 and will conduct five open “Innovation Labs” each weekend to help contestants find collaborators. The contest will conclude on November 13 with an awards ceremony to unveil the winning applications. Additional contest details and guidelines for entries can be found at

The contest will serve as a catalyst to visualize the District’s data so it will be useful to the citizens of DC, improving their quality of life; foster innovation in the DC technology community resulting in startup formation and growth; solve the technology challenges of OCTO through more cost effective open collaboration; and work towards a new model for government/private sector cross collaboration that can be utilized repeatedly to solve our challenges and serve as an example for other governments.

“The Apps for Democracy contest is part of our drive toward digital democracy in the nation’s capital,” said District CTO Vivek Kundra. “Especially in these difficult economic times, it’s crucial to the government’s mission to find more efficient and impactful methods for delivering an even higher level of service for a fraction of the cost. We are ushering in a new age of participatory democracy, one in which technology is developed by the people for the people.”